Virtual Dementia Tour offers glimpse into life with memory loss

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

A new program is giving people in the Quad Cities a chance to experience the daily struggles of living with dementia.

Senior Star at Elmore Place, a senior living center in Davenport, is now offering the Virtual Dementia Tour. The experience challenges caregivers and family members of people with dementia to perform everyday tasks while their senses are impaired.

"When you walk in somebody's shoes, you sometimes begin to better understand what they're experiencing," said Marc Strohschein, executive director at Senior Star.

Participants are first suited up with gloves and shoe inserts to mimic neuropathy or nerve damage. Goggles blur your vision, and headphones pipe a constant chatter of noise into your ears.

Participants are then led into an apartment where they have eight minutes to complete five, seemingly-simple tasks like setting the table, folding towels, filling a cup with water, writing a letter, and finding a sweater.

Observers watch their attempts and note behaviors often seen in dementia patients, like frustration, confusion, wandering and hoarding.

Family members of those with dementia called the tour an "eye-opening experience."

"My mom had passed away a couple years ago with dementia, and I wish I would have gone through it before because I would have much better understood some of the experiences she was having," said Strohschein.

Memory care director Amanda Buchholz said the experience was nothing like she expected. She says it's helped her better understand residents, and the tour taught her to give short commands, do things more slowly, and offer more help.

"I kept asking for help, and they wouldn't give me any help. I was just so frustrated, and I actually gave up. I sat there, and I cried," said Buchholz. "It was very heart-touching to finally, actually get to see what they go through on a daily basis."

Professional groups, caregivers, and family members of those living with dementia are invited to experience the Virtual Dementia Tour for themselves. For more information, call Senior Star at 563-265-3897.